Score Point 2: The “Evolution” from Somewhat Effective to Basic

Author: Susan Diaz, Secondary Literacy Education Specialist

This past week, I presented a workshop on expository writing in which I used the scoring guides released by T.E.A. to do anchoring and range-finding with participants.  After combing through several of the score point 2 essays, one of my participants had an epiphany:  “These 2’s aren’t very good!  Why are they scoring so high?!”  Another participant pointed out to her that on the STAAR a 2 is considered a “Basic” writing performance, so her observation was quite accurate: while a 2 on TAKS was deemed “Somewhat Effective” and passing, a 2 on STAAR is something completely different. There is no gate-keeper essay on STAAR, meaning scoring a 1 or 2 doesn’t mean the student will automatically fail, but considering the weight of writing on the test (52% of the overall score), and if the goal is to truly make students college and career ready, a 2 isn’t what we should aim for.

 

Let’s look at an excerpt of the Score Point 2 STAAR EOC Rubric for English I Expository Writing, under “Development of Ideas.”The essay reflects little or no thoughtfulness. The writer’s response to the prompt is sometimes formulaic. The writer develops the essay in a manner that demonstrates only a limited understanding of the expository writing task.The rubric highlights two important issues to consider for STAAR expository writing: thoughtfulness and formulas.  In Elizabeth Rorschach’s article “The Five-Paragraph Theme Redux,” she argues that “standardized writing exams encourage teachers to focus on format and correctness, with little concern for content.”  I whole-heartedly agree with her!  Down with the test!  It’s ruining writing!  Down with the, WAIT!  What did that rubric say?  Thoughtfulness (i.e., “content”) = good.  Formula (i.e., “format”) = bad.  After repeatedly looking at the released essays from this past year’s English I EOC, I realized that kids were being rewarded for original ideas and for creative yet appropriate organizational structures.  Often when we are confronted with high-stakes writing tests, we fall back on formulas as tried and true ways of assisting our struggling students.  As Rorschach states, when we focus first on prefabricated text structures (formulas), we limit our students’ thinking.  Instead of finding text structures that fit their ideas, students force ideas to fit within the structures.  Most importantly, Rorschach warns us, “When teachers’ attention is focused on structure…they cease to be real readers who need to be engaged by interesting ideas.”  So, first, let us value our students’ ideas by becoming real readers or real listeners.  And, then, let us assist our students in finding their own ways to organize their fresh ideas into original packages.

 

Source

“The Five-Paragraph Theme Redux,” Elizabeth Rorschach, accessed October 1, 2012, http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/1287.


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